A new series, 'How to Write a Mystery'

A new series, 'How to Write a Mystery'

In honor of the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, Jan. 19, 1809, I am starting a new series today: How to Write a Mystery.

Posts will be based on the 2021 book of that title, with the subtitle “A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America,” edited by Lee Child with Laurie R. King.

From defining genres — what’s a cozy, anyway? — to continuing a character, various writers provided essays for the book. Mine is sprouting bookmarks and Post-it tabs all over, so I’d like to look at some of my favorite essays to reveal things about mysteries, as well as about writing in general.

Like the essays themselves, some posts will be longer than others. For instance, Steve Hockensmith’s list of “Dos and Don’ts for Wannabe Writers” consists of five paragraphs on one page — three Dos, two Don’ts. My favorite?

“DO read.”

Filed under: Writing

Tags: How to Write a Mystery

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  • This is all a mystery to me.

  • In reply to jack:

    Watch this space!

  • How to write a mystery? I don't have a clue.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Another short essay is by Stephanie Kay Bendel, who writes that when she has "a nagging problem," she finds it useful to sleep on it. "Letting my subconscious solve the problem often works for me," Bendel says. I like that, but also, watch this space.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That's my problem, too.

  • I'm intrigued. Can't wait to read more!

  • Thank you. Hank Phillippi Ryan writes about reading along with writing as she writes about figuring out whether you're finished with a novel. Her final secret is that she knows when she's finished -- she forgets she's editing and realizes that she's simply reading. Then she realizes "it's its own story. And then I think -- done," Ryan writes.

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